Mission Statement

This blog is dedicated to tracking current events and developments that exemplify, support or discredit the
themes of City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Warheads, Human Heads, and Mixed Motives

The START ratification blackmail gets more blatant. In the NYT yesterday Senator Kyl was demanding first year nuclear “modernization” money, second year money, and long-range money.

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker wants an “appropriate and thoughtful modernization program.” (thoughtful - that’s sweet)

Administration officials, reported the Times, say they will pay the price,. 

The House of Representatives does not vote on ratification but appropriates money..  So Kyl and the rest want to control House votes.  Vice President Biden lobbied House members to produce the first year modernization money, only to see a House Subcommittee cut it back $99 million. 

The frantic rush for nuclear arms race billions, when the United States is leagues ahead of all the rest of the world, and when Republicans and Democrats are screaming deficit, deficit, has to be measured against two probable motives on the part of Kyl, Corker and the others:

    - to facilitate squeezing money for health, conservation, climate control, recreation, and education out of the budget, the tactic brazenly admitted by Reagan’s Budget Director David Stockman.

    - to keep weapons profits bubbling.

These two ever-present motives have disabled rational discourse on security for a half century.

In Britain a parallel weapons modernization battle is raging, at the moment over Trident missile submarines. Do they need modernization?  Might there be a cheaper deterrent?  And so on.

Just what do our supposedly moldering warheads (that an independent scientists’ group called JASON say have years of remaining shelf life), these rusty, musty derelicts of outmoded warfare point to, these Twentieth Century counterparts of spears, cross-bows, muskets, and cannon?  At you and me, of course.  Over a thousand around the world, on hair trigger alert, programmed for the downtowns, the malls and city halls, hospitals, and schools.

Anthropologists one day will ask why human evolution weakened our survival instinct just as humans invented  the ultimate killing machinery and needed a survival instinct as never before.

The answer, seems to me, is that evolution gave us more and more brain power to make up for our increasingly awkward inability to dodge and weave.  Question is, can democracy mobilize modern humans’ undoubted intelligence, or does our disuse of brainpower consign democracy and other hallmarks of progress to defeat?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Price of Benignity

Looks as if the Senate might ratify START.  Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, the pivotal Republican Senate Whip, called the treaty “benign” in his Wall Street Journal op ed article on Friday.

This unexpected blessing was followed, of course, by the Republican blackmail list.  Kyl acknowledged that part of the price for ratification has been paid - continuation of the triad, U.S./Russian agreement to negotiate further reductions, recitations about the importance of deterrence, and pledges to spend over $100 billion to maintain and modernize nuclear delivery systems and $80 billion to modernize warheads and infrastructure.

Not enough, says Kyl.  Add a next-generation bomber, ballistic missile, and air-launched cruise missile, replace two facilities that produce plutonium and uranium, approve the weapons items in the FY 2011 budget, and provide evidence that the FY 2012 budget will include “adequate” nuclear weapons funding.

Kyl is disturbed, as well, by some of President Obama’s ideas, like the “utopian” goal of zero nuclear weapons, restrictions that he thinks the Nuclear Posture Review places on the freedom of military and scientific experts to dream up new weapons designs, and the pledge to pursue another new U.S.-Russian treaty, that would achieve further nuclear weapons reductions.

Kyl contradicts the last of these objections when he complains that START does not address tactical weapons, which is exactly what would be addressed in a further treaty.

My OED offers five meanings when “benign” is applied to “things”:  favorable, kind, fortunate, salutary, and propitious.  Sorry I can’t say the same about Kyl’s doomsday list.  There ought to be a law (international) that every country’s annual military budget be accompanied by a proposal to improve the population’s security during that budget year, through graduated steps toward a world of enforced law.  If the United States initiated such an effort our country would prove itself worthy of some of the “peace loving” accolades that Super patriots love to toss.

Impossible, though, at the Presidential or Congressional level of politics. The question for threatened populations is, how to make it politically feasible for national governments to entertain such thoughts in the face of utopianism charges like Congressman Kyl’s.    

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Trading Safety for Votes

Mitt Romney’s outrageous attack on President Obama in yesterday’s Washington Post, posing as a learned critique of the START Treaty, shows again the incapacity of nations to protect their populations. Even if the Senate ratifies the Treaty, such attacks disable the President politically from from building security through enforced law instead of violence.  They also disable him from slowing the global missile defense race that compels nations to build ever more deadly offensive weapons to counter the defensive weapons (read, “double the profits for Boeing, Lockheed, et al”). 

The huge variety of weapons, and the fact that every nation concentrates for various reasons more on some weapons systems than others, means that arsenals always are asymmetrical and that a negotiated treaty may reduce Nation A’s x weapons more than B’s while it reduces B’s y weapons more than A’s. A hotshot like  Romney can pick and choose, disregarding the bottom line of security.

Romney states that Russia retains the right to 10,000 tactical warheads, which, he suggests, are mounted on missiles that cannot reach the U.S. but could reach other nations.  In fact, tactical nuclear weapons are generally taken to mean artillery shells, mines, etc., i.e., battlefield weapons, not missiles at all. Missiles that are not intercontinental are generally called intermediate range missiles, not tactical weapons.  He seems ignorant of the fact that previous START treaties also omitted tactical weapons and that the U.S. and Russia have signified a mutual intention to progress to tactical weapons, once both countries ratify START. 

Romney and other Republicans concentrate their strongest criticism on the assertion that START will prevent the U.S. from developing missile defenses.  The Treaty does nothing of the kind, and what they are referring to is the reservation that a country can withdraw if it feels threatened, or weakened, by the other side’s missile defense deployments.  Either side can withdraw for any other reason as well, and the Obama Administration has given Russia clear advice that our missile defense program will proceed. 

He goes on to bemoan the agreement not to use missile silos for missile defense sites, neglecting to note that the Pentagon has advised against such use. 

He complains that ICBMs are not prohibited from bombers, a strange gaff. Bombers carry cruise missiles, but not huge ICBMs.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates published a piece in the Wall Street Journal on May 13, “The Case for the New START Treaty,” reporting that he has worked on START treaties since 1970, that all Presidents have favored them, and that bipartisan votes in the Senates have always ratified them. “The New START Treaty has the unanimous support of America’s military leadership...” START will provide “an extensive verification regime...that will help us track - for the very first time - all accountable strategic nuclear delivery systems.” He concludes, “It strengthens the security of the U.S. and our allies and promotes strategic stability between the world’s two major nuclear powers.”  What more could one ask for, unless one were running, desperately, irresponsibly, for President?